Beautiful raked beach but no swimmers other than possible jellyfish
"It is not down in any map; true places never are." Herman Melville
We were captivated by Cardwell
but the open road was beckoning and Cyril duly instructed Brutey to turn left onto the A1 to make a journey of approximately 350kms to Bowen.
As a rule, we avoid the main freeways but the alternative routing would have been too far inland and off course. With plenty of sugar cane visible spoiling what would have once been beautiful coastal plains and forest, a distraction was needed so the radio was tuned into an Aussie early morning talk show. The chat show hosts were banging on about the Federal Election due to take place on 18th
May and what was intriguing was the sensible discussion taking place about what was best for Australia. In stark contrast to the outrageous stuff our “politicians” back in SA spew forth daily and quite frankly, not having the daily dose of political crap one has to contend with back home has been a blessing. They have their controversies and nonsense here as well and with my limited knowledge of the Aussie political scene, I have always wondered why anyone would want to enter politics in Oz. Politicians get treated with contempt if they step out of line which
Spectacular Horseshoe Bay.
is the way it should be. In recent years Aussie Prime Ministers have been recycled every six months or so and they are giving the Italians a serious challenge on this score.
An hour or so down the road we spotted a turn off to Rollingstone
and on queue stumbled upon a beautiful open park which was an ideal stop for a coffee break. A crystal-clear creek gurgled close by and on questioning a fellow coffee slurper; he said he thought there were trout in the stream. No way! A bonus of our stop was the appearance close by of one of the country’s iconic birds, the Kookaburra, which made a raucous, giggling and screeching noise not unlike what one would hear at an EFF rally.
Back onto the Pacific Highway (overstatement noted), the cane fields soon disappeared and the countryside gave an indication of what the whole area looked like once upon a time. Open fields covered with tall grasses and interspersed with the ever-present eucalyptus trees of which there are 900 species in Australia. Surprisingly there was not much evidence of kangaroo road kill given that the topography looked ideal for them and keeping in mind
Chill time at Horseshoe Bay.
that there are roughly 44 million of the buggers hopping about this massive country.
Next up on this longish drive was Townsville
, which is a large North Queensland city which seems to gasp for tourists given the attractions of Cairns and other Whitsunday enclaves. Lots of light industry type buildings and the Aussie air force has a base there confirmed by three impressive military jets flying low to land somewhere close by. The beach front and harbour area typically have a wrap around of an impressive walkway/promenade and the usual plethora of eating joints and pubs. James Cook University is located there so plenty of students keep the place pumping. A stunning beach, which had been meticulously raked, lost its allure a bit due to the presence of a swimming enclosure. The dreaded stinger curse! Unbelievably this town was called Brownsville a year ago due to the devastating drought of a few prior years. This had all changed with a cyclone and copious summer rains.
At some point on the journey a very large billboard on the roadside displayed a stunningly beautiful portrait of one of the Whitsunday islands. The guys who crafted this may not realise how
Another view of Horseshoe Bay from an elevated point.
good it is because our immediate reaction was wow, we simply have to sign up and do it. This was one of those moments (it happens a lot when one travels) when the budget pales into insignificance.
After a long day we finally drifted into Bowen
wondering if this was a wise choice. The entrance was uninspiring with salt pans dominating the landscape but a few kilometres further on, the charm and beauty of this smallish coastal town became apparent. Arrived at the Bowen Coral Coast Beachfront Park
at about the time one thinks about settling the dust with some form of liquid refreshment. This town with a population of about 9,000 is probably unknown to half the Aussie population and they are all the poorer for that. It boasts a beautiful main beachfront and a number of small secluded bays/beaches. What was really impressive was a 64-page Bowen tourist magazine with loads of information about what to do and where to go. Unusual you may think but keep in mind this town is not really on the mainstream map. By the time the sundowners had done their work and the lights were dimmed in the RV, thoughts revolved
A weird and whacky house.
around some really good stuff to do over the next two days.
Following the pattern of all the towns/cities we had visited thus far; Bowen was a myriad of walking pathways and hiking trails just off palm fringed beaches. Early on the first morning, a 30deg C temp only had one solution and that was a short drive to Horseshoe Bay where finally a plunge into the ocean was possible. The stinger season was over and, despite the sea temp being 26deg C, it was a swim to relish without any swimming enclosure. This little bay was absolutely stunning but does not even get a mention in the Lonely Planet Guide (LPG) other than “Bowen gets busy during the fruit picking season…but there are some truly stunning-and little visited-beaches and bays”. I suspect the LPG travel writer may have had a bender the night before and missed this impressive town and its charms.
The very best way to appreciate where one is, is to simply strap on walking shoes and set off. This has been dead easy in every town/city visited to date and Bowen was no exception. Early on the second day we set off on a
There was a different quirky, humorous message each day.
4.5km circular walk on a pathway around a prominent headland with superb views of little bays boasting clean sandy beaches with not a person in sight. Islands offshore were visible and all set against a backdrop of exquisite turquoise seas. Stoked, we arrived back at Horseshoe Bay for a plunge into the sea to try and cool down. But 26deg C water temp doesn’t quite do it.
I had chatted to the RV Camp Manager about fishing prospects and mid-day set off to explore a creek inlet a little way up the beach. Thrashed the water for an hour or so, called it quits and wondered where the much-fabled barramundi were hiding.
Final evening had to be at a suitable sundowner spot which we found and as a bonus it had what looked like good fishing water for one last attempt at catching dinner, which I had been promising Sue since way back.
Against a setting sun and magnificent bay in front of me, I soon got lost in the moment and hadn’t noticed three fairly beefy young “Sheila’s” slip onto the rock behind me. The blissful moment was somewhat thrown into disarray when a female voice delivered this question: “Where is your f…g tinny mate?”. A little stunned, I decoded this to actually mean: “Why the hell are you wasting your time fishing off a rock?”. I had to answer, so lamely I said that my tinny was back in South Africa. This got the conversation back on track and they were intrigued that we were doing this six-week RV trip. I said it was the best way to see any country and that they needed to shove this idea in their bucket lists for the future. Conversation went pear-shaped again when the one “Sheila” said: “No f…g way do I have a bucket list because I could f…g die tomorrow.” Time to kick for touch and I retired to the beach for a much-needed cold beer.
So, no fish for dinner but there is always an upside. Bowen has a very good seafood wholesaler at the harbour and we supped on grilled prawns washed down with a “cheeky little devil” called Jacobs Creek Pinot Grigio. A fitting, final evening in Bowen which I venture to say could be one of Australia’s many best kept secrets.
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